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Poverty: The Double Burden of Malnutrition in Mothers and the Intergenerational Impact

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Women are doubly vulnerable to malnutrition, because of their high nutritional requirements for pregnancy and lactation and also because of gender inequalities in poverty. Undernutrition and overnutrition coexist in developing countries undergoing rapid nutrition transition, and women are susceptible to this double burden of “dysnutrition,” often cumulating stunting or micronutrient malnutrition with obesity or other nutrition-related chronic diseases. The purpose of the present paper is to describe the adverse impact of income and gender inequities on women's nutritional health, and the dramatic consequences, not only for women themselves, but for children, families, and societies. Improving women's resources, including health, nutrition, education, and decisional power, is critical for equity and for the health of children and adults of future generations, since poor fetal and infancy nutrition is another risk factor for chronic diseases, in particular abdominal obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease. Addressing malnutrition and nutrition-related chronic diseases simultaneously is a challenge facing developing countries, and examples of promising initiatives are provided. Focusing on women along the lifecycle, according to the continuum of care approach, is essential to achieving the Millennium Development Goals and to breaking the intergenerational cycle of poverty, malnutrition, and ill-health.

Keywords: double burden of malnutrition; gender inequalities; maternal nutrition; poverty

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Nutrition and WHO Collaborating Centre on Nutritional Changes and Development, Université de Montréal, Canada

Publication date: June 1, 2008


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